Songkhla Lake: the Largest Natural Lake in Thailand – March 30th, 2009
The Songkhla Lake is the largest natural lake of Thailand, located on the Malay peninsula in the southern part of the country. Covering an area of 1,040 km² it borders the provinces of Songkhla and Phattalung.
The lake is divided into four distinct parts. The southern part opens by a 380 m wide strait to the Gulf of Thailand at the city of Songkhla, and contains brackish tan-colored water of about half the salinity of the ocean.
To the north the water changes to sweet water, and appears green. Further north after a bottleneck of only 6 km width is the Thale Luang (782.80 km²), and finally at the northern end in between a mangrove swamp the 28 km² small Thale Noi.
The most striking feature is the long 75 km long spit which separates the lake from the sea. Unlike most spits, it was probably formed when originally existing islands became interconnected by the silting from the lake precursor.
The Phru Khuan Khi Sian wetlands, at the Thale Noi lake located just north of Thale Luang, are one of the few surviving intact freshwater wetland ecosystems in Thailand.
They have been protected as a Ramsar wetland since 1998, and are part of the larger Thale Noi Non-Hunting Area, created in 1975. Among the specific wetland types found here are lake, marsh, Melaleuca (also termed “paperbark”) swamp forest, paddy fields, and swamp grasslands.
A small population of Irrawaddy Dolphins is found in the lake, however threatened by extinction from the overfishing and pollution of the lake. The IUCN Red List shows several populations, including those in the Mahakam River and Malampaya Sound, as critically endangered.